Chairmen Sam Graves & Garret Graves Statements from Hearing on State of American Aviation
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves (R-LA) from today’s hearing entitled, “The State of American Aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration”:
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves
The United States aviation system has been a major focus of the Committee’s work this Congress. Last year, the House overwhelmingly passed a comprehensive, bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that will dramatically improve American aviation and the FAA. Unfortunately, this bill and its many improvements have been held up in the Senate for more than six months.
Fortunately, the Senate appears poised to resume its markup of their FAA bill in a few days. I look forward to seeing if this finally happens and to sitting down with our Senate Commerce Committee counterparts to start reconciling the bills.
Serious issues within our aviation system have played out time and time again on the nightly news, and in my opinion, the consequences of having no long-term FAA bill are exacerbating them.
Now more than ever, American aviation and FAA needs bold direction from Congress. We cannot afford business as usual or half measures. Our bill will secure the growth and robust leadership the American people deserve in their aerospace system.
While Congress continues to move the FAA reauthorization towards the finish line, we’re looking to you, Administrator Whitaker, to pick up the slack. Many of the provisions in the House-passed bill are noncontroversial and can be implemented by the FAA without any additional authority from Congress. I urge you and your staff to start laying the groundwork for expeditious and efficient agency implementation of provisions in line with Congressional intent.
Today is also a great opportunity for Members to highlight the aviation priorities that matter to them and ensure their issues are heard, understood, and hopefully addressed.
We also want to hear what your impressions of the agency have been since your confirmation, and what your priorities are going to be moving forward.
And finally, we look forward to hearing an update on what the FAA is doing regarding the Alaska Airlines flight 1282 accident and what you have learned so far in the aftermath. And I do want to thank you, Administrator Whitaker, and your staff for the effective communication thus far related to this incident and your related findings. Open communication is an important component in the Committee having confidence in the actions taken by the FAA, and I hope that continues as the agency progresses with its oversight work and audits. We all share the same goal of ensuring the safety of our aviation system and maintaining that gold standard.
Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Garret Graves
Thank you for being here today, Administrator Whitaker. I want first to congratulate you on your unanimous confirmation vote. As you know, achieving something like that today is quite remarkable, and I really appreciate your expertise and look forward to working with you. I hope you understand that this is strong support from Congress but also enormous recognition of the responsibility of the job you’ve now taken on.
America’s aviation industry is the gold standard and has long since been at the leading edge of technological advancement. We’ve also seen in recent months that we’ve had incredible challenges in American aviation.
The aviation industry needs to be successful promoting technology, regulatory stability, passenger safety, and importantly – the things folks sometimes lose sight of – improvements to the passenger experience.
Every American enjoys the enormous benefit of this collaborative work. Commercial aviation has never been safer or more prosperous. Our aerospace industry moves hundreds of millions of people annually, creating millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of economic activity, and forms a critical pillar of national defense.
Maintaining our gold standard of aviation safety is vital to the United States and should be an urgent national priority. But the only guarantee in our gold standard is that what got us there yesterday will not be what keeps us there tomorrow.
In the past year, as I’ve noted, we’ve seen several aircraft manufacturing defects, aircraft engine fires, a whole passenger airframe destroyed by fire, near misses at American airports, ramp worker deaths, pilot mental health issues, general aviation accidents, poor airline customer service – especially for disabled passengers – and other challenges.
The Subcommittee has received testimony about the FAA’s organizational deficiencies and struggles the agency has had integrating drones, advanced air mobility vehicles, commercial space transportation, and cybersecurity into our National Airspace System, and updating the technology that’s needed to ensure the efficiency and performance of our air traffic control systems.
For each and every one of those instances, you can find a provision in the House-passed FAA bill addressing it. Let me say it again: for every one of those issues, you can find provisions in the House-passed FAA bill addressing them.
I want to remind you that we passed that bill months and months ago, well before the September 30, 2023 expiration. That didn’t happen by mistake. We worked methodically.
I want to thank Ranking Member Larsen, Ranking Member Cohen, Chairman Sam Graves, and all of the Aviation team for plowing through literally thousands and thousands of requests from stakeholders, the public, and Members of Congress and ultimately producing a strong, bipartisan proposal.
Despite differences of opinion, the House of Representatives successfully passed a FAA reauthorization bill by a vote of 351-69. Just like your confirmation vote, in times like these, that is extraordinary.
Since the passage of the bill through the House, it has received support from all corners of the aviation sector: general aviation, business aviation, manufacturers, innovators, labor, members of the FAA workforce, commercial aviation, groups representing passengers, airports, and the list goes on.
The House-produced legislation makes transformative changes in the passenger experience and in private aviation. It provides innovators of the Unmanned Aerial Systems and Advanced Air Mobility Space the regulatory certainty they need to deploy some of the most advanced technologies we’ve seen in aviation.
We also make meaningful reforms to expedite agency processes and to position the agency to manage an ever-expanding aviation system.
And the bill contains numerous provisions aimed at improving aviation safety.
With all the recent incidents, accidents, near misses, and problems, it’s nothing short of malpractice that the Senate hasn’t even bothered to mark up the FAA reauthorization bill.
The Senate’s repeated failure has destroyed $650 million in airport investment this year alone and delayed the enactment of urgently needed safety measures and reforms.
There has never been a worse time to leave the FAA reauthorized, yet that’s where the Senate’s inaction has led us.
You’re doing the best you can with the job you have, Mr. Administrator, but it’s clear to me that the Senate’s inability to do its job has real-world consequences that directly affect American leadership in aviation and the safety of the traveling public.
We stand ready, willing, and able to help negotiate the FAA reauthorization bill whenever the Senate is ready. Hopefully, you can do something to help us with that, Mr. Administrator, and hopefully, the conversation we have today underscores the urgency of getting a long-term comprehensive reauthorization bill signed into law.
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